After a nine-year run, the Indiana Motorsports Association is out of gas.
The IMA folded late last year after Executive Director Tom Weisenbach found a new job.
Weisenbach conceded that membership had stagnated.
“Financially, it just wasn’t viable. In the end, I had some other opportunities and the board decided to shut down,” said Weisenbach, adding that he can’t say where he’s headed until his new motorsports employer completes an acquisition late this month. “We’re all disappointed, but in the end, it’s the right move for everyone.”
The IMA launched in November 2005 with an endorsement from then-Gov. Mitch Daniels and dozens of motorsports businesses around the state. The organization was overseen by a 13-member board.
Chris Paulsen, president of C&R Racing Inc., a well-known Indianapolis-based maker of auto racing components, was founding chairman and Weisenbach was hired in April 2006.
Before coming to IMA, Weisenbach worked from 2005-06 for Keystone Marketing, a North Carolina-based sports marketing firm involved in NASCAR. From 2001-05, he was national sales manager for Indy Racing League [now IndyCar Series] and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The IMA started off charging $750 in annual dues and then $850. Membership grew to more than 100, but then tailed off to 92, Weisenbach said.
“The majority of our members had been with us for five years or more,” he said. “The struggle was in finding new members.”
Being the sole paid employee, Weisenbach struggled to do the marketing and sales to attract more members.
“This is probably a three-person operation, so it was really difficult,” he said. “At the end of the day, one person can only get so much done.”
The IMA isn’t the first area motorsports-related association to hit the wall.
In the early 1990s, Doug Boles helped launch Indy MotorForce, a racing-related economic development organization, under then-Mayor Steve Goldsmith.
But when Boles left Goldsmith’s staff in 1997, Indy MotorForce slid under the umbrella of Indy Partnership, the broad economic development group, and the effort died. Subsequent resurrections also smoked out.
Boles went on to become part-owner in Panther Racing and is now president of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Weisenbach thinks IMA will be missed as a clearinghouse for internships and networking. Its seminars covered everything from research and development to showing companies how to qualify for tax credits and legally transport goods and equipment across state lines.
“There’s no other organization acting as a central state of information for this industry,” Weisenbach said.
Members also were instrumental in launching the International Motorsports Industry Show in Indianapolis in 2009 to fill the void left by the Performance Racing Industry Show, which departed for Orlando 2004 and reneged on a promise to come back to Indianapolis.
The IMIS show was eventually acquired by PRI’s parent and, thanks partly to IMIS’s success, PRI moved back to Indianapolis in 2013.
Another key IMA initiative was compiling a directory of Indiana motorsports companies. Weisenbach said that was a key networking tool and helped local government officials quantify and understand the industry’s economic impact.
Although the IMA website is shut down, Weisenbach is keeping his IMA email open for now.
“I still have IMA members contacting me regularly for help with resources,” Weisenbach said. “I want to keep those lines of communication open.”